A unique benefit available to Lowell students is its flexible, eight-block schedule, which includes 20 mods. This schedule enables students to select which courses they take and when they take them. The system is appreciated, but still far from perfect. Its flaws include a misallocation of block eight — Mods 19-20 — classes and a lengthy scheduling process that doesn’t inform students when they may take their courses until just days before self-scheduling day — Arena.
Block eight classes are a problem for students who have afterschool commitments to athletic teams, arts and work. While the school supports some of these activities by permitting students to file for exemptions, this semester’s schedule has multiple courses with an inappropriately high ratio of block eight courses. The crunch comes for for students when they encounter a course that is offered during block eight, and only zero or one other section. Upperclassmen are more likely to work and participate in varsity athletics than underclassmen because of their age. If a “singleton” — a course that only has one section — is offered during block eight, it is impossible for a student to avoid having a block eight class despite having been granted a block eight exemption.
In the social science department, block eight classes are offered almost twice as frequently for juniors and seniors as they are for underclassmen. This trend is repeated for English classes, where the rate of eighth-block sections for mandatory upperclassmen courses is more than double that for freshmen and sophomores. “That’s the way the cookie crumbles,” English department head Bryan Ritter explained, “We try not to offer too many block eight classes because of sports and jobs.”
The State of California Education Code requires Lowell to have a certain minimum number of students enrolled in courses during each period in order for that period to count towards the school’s average daily instructional minutes. Obviously, Lowell must offer some sections during block eight. However, these sections should be geared more toward underclassmen and courses that are offered for many sections throughout the day, such as freshman English, rather than courses such as American Literature 1 or Literature and Philosophy: Ethics of Eating, which are mandatory English elective courses taken by juniors and seniors. In fact, 9th Grade English 1 is offered eight sections this semester, none of which occur during block eight. Ethics of Eating and American Literature 1 are each offered during two sections, with one during block eight for both. In a Jan. 24 meeting discussion, the administrators and the Union Building Committee echoed the sentiment that more underclassmen courses should be offered during block eight, and less classes for upperclassmen, according to the meeting’s minutes.
Students may be granted exemptions from block one and block eight courses due to before and after school obligations, such as athletic teams and district-sanctioned employment.
However, exemptions may be rendered useless in certain scenarios. If a course is offered for two sections, and one of them is during block eight, if more than half of its students have exemptions, some of them will be forced into the block eight section.
Personally, I felt a bit puzzled when the Announcer — the list of upcoming courses by block and teacher — was published. From the document displaying the master schedule, I immediately noticed that four of my five courses were offered during block eight for a combined seven sections total. Even though my schedule included a block eight athletics exemption, I was forced to enroll in a block eight course. This problem was brought on because one of my courses was a singleton. Due to enrollment numbers, singletons are necessary, but should never be offered during block eight.
Had I been able to see the Announcer earlier, I would have been able to alter my schedule and course request before submitting my college applications, on which I certified my schedule for my final semester of high school. The Announcer was not published until very late this last semester, because the counseling department did not receive the schedules from the departments until as late as Dec. 10, with Arena being held on Dec. 17. “I will ask the departments to complete their schedules earlier so that the counseling office will have enough time to work on the Announcer and students will have enough time to discuss their course concerns and choices with the teachers and counselors,” assistant principal of student services Michael Yi said, “I’m trying to move the whole process up by a week or two.” Transitioning to an online scheduling process would be advantageous, as it would expedite the entire operation.
One of Lowell’s most special features is its schedule. However, the scheduling process should be fine tuned to create fewer challenges for the counseling department and students, specifically upperclassmen, and especially those involved in after school activities.
The Announcer should be released earlier, and block eight sections should not be offered for singletons, and upperclassmen courses with very few sections.
Infographic by Monica Castro